Tuesday, November 6, 2007
"You Just Make it Work"
Several times over the course of my childfree life, when listening to parents vent about how exhausted they are, how broke they are, how they are fighting with their spouse all the time and how their kids drive them crazy, I have been interested to see that I almost always get a the same response from them when I make this comment:
Me: "Man, I just don't know how you do it. The work, the expense, the lack of sleep, devoting your whole life to another person and giving up so much of your own life."
Parent: "I used to think the same thing. But somehow you just make it work."
So what is the parent really trying to convey? This is what I think they want me to believe:
"I used to be naive like you and think that having kids was so difficult, but the fact is, they are so rewarding that you will do anything in order to have them. All the stress and burden doesn't bother me a lick. It's so worth it!"
But if you scratch the surface, this is what I believe is really underneath:
"Yes, it's a hell-hole of a life for sure, but kids aren't returnable. I made my bed so I have to lie in it and I am dealing with that trauma the best I can. So I better convince myself (and everyone else) that I am making it work and that I can get through it and that it's all worth it. And while I am at it, misery loves company so I will try to convince you to undertake this lifestyle too!"
The fact is, whenever a parent says, "you just make it work" I sincerely have to scratch my head. Of course you just make it work! What choice do you have? I guess you could commit suicide, but otherwise you're stuck with it, right? If I had a child, I would make it work too. I'd have to. We'd probably have to sell the house and move someplace more affordable (to allow for all the extra expense of a child), I'd quit school (since pursuing a graduate degree is probably unrealistic for the mother of a small child). I'd cancel our upcoming vacation (since it doesn't seem practical to lug an infant to Tulum, Mexico and make it sleep in a tent on the beach). I'd probably stop exercising in the mornings (since mornings would be taken up with baby care, plus I'd probably have to turn the workout room into a nursery). The list goes on and on.
The point is, just because you can make a particular lifestyle work doesn't mean that lifestyle is one you should choose. It also doesn't mean that lifestyle is the optimal one for you and everyone else, and the one that will be the most fulfilling and enjoyable above all other lifestyles.
I didn't choose to parent. I also didn't choose to be a doctor, work for the Peace Corps, run for office, live in a city, own an SUV, write a book, or have a parrot as a pet, although I am sure these are considered excellent choices by many people.
What I did choose is to live a life that values freedom - freedom to create, to express, to explore, to love, to discover, to learn, to converse, to try new things, to think, to endeavor, to grow, to socialize, to rest, to aspire, to indulge, to dream, to introspect, to expand.
I have no doubt that I'd sacrifice most, if not all, of these freedoms to have kids and "make it work".